On Tuesday, the Oscar nominations were announced, and while writers and directors of color did see some recognition, the acting categories were pretty white. Of the 20 acting nominations, only four went to people of color, all of whom were black. While any person of color being celebrated is a win, the overall lack of diversity is still astounding, particularly for Latinx actors.
Yes, Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water took home 13 nominations, but the dearth of Latinx actors points to a deeper issue when it comes to representation. Latinx audiences consistently buy more tickets than any other racial minority group in the country, and they consistently overrepresent in ticket sales compared to their share of the American public. One 2014 study found that Latinx women in particular were the most frequent moviegoers across the board. Yet representation has still not caught up. A 2016 study found just three percent of speaking characters in Hollywood movies were Latinx.
Over at Variety, Gina Rodriguez has penned a sharp essay on this shameful situation, calling for swift change:
To be seen and heard is a simple human need. To be invisible in a world of loud voices is heartbreaking and dehumanizing. The under-representation of Latinos in Hollywood both on and off screen is not just a feeling; it’s a sad reality.
Latinos are not only prominent and loyal in the consumer market but also make up one of the largest demographics at the box office every opening weekend. The fact that we are not seen on screen despite our vast contributions is devastating.
Latinos come in many skin tones, religious background and political perspectives. It’s important we celebrate, employ and represent all Latinos from European to Afro-Latinos, because it is our responsibility as an industry to give this entire generation positive representation so that no one feels invisible.
As Rodriguez wrote, the lack of representation points to a lack of diversity in key positions of power. Studio executives, talent agencies, and production companies are predominantly white, inherently making pitches for Latinx stories more difficult. But there are other layers to the issue, as Ricardo Lopez points out at Variety, including the diversity of Latinx populations:
Moreover, that lack of inclusion has meant that studios have found it challenging to market to a very fragmented population that includes Latinos of Mexican descent throughout the southwest, of Cuban descent in Florida, and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York. Some are immigrants, whose primary language is Spanish. Others are first or second-generation Latinos who don’t know any other home except the U.S., or do not speak Spanish.
It shouldn’t have to take China to prove that Latinx stories can find audiences around the world and are therefore worth telling, but it probably doesn’t hurt that Coco raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in China. The data is there. Latinx audiences are there. Non-Latinx international audiences are there. The answer seems pretty clear.
Correction: This post initially said the Oscar nominations were announced on Wednesday. They were announced Tuesday.